Best Online Colleges in Washington 2021

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Professionals in Washington often enroll in flexible online programs to advance their career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), higher levels of education correlate with higher median salaries and lower unemployment rates. Obtaining one of the most affordable online degrees in Washington can lead to advanced careers and financial stability.

A growing number of Washington residents hold a degree. The number of Washington residents with a bachelor’s degree increased more than 80% from 2000-2018, according to the Office of Financial Management.

Many of the top colleges and universities in Washington offer online programs. Distance programs often appeal to students with busy schedules and those without easy access to campus. For students attending online college, Washington programs include fully online and hybrid options. In-state students typically pay reduced tuition rates.

This guide explores the best online colleges in Washington to help prospective students make an informed choice. By researching the best degree online in Washington for their field, professionals can find a program that fits their goals and budget.


  • How long does it take to earn an online degree?

    Full-time students generally earn their online bachelor’s degree in four years. Master’s degrees and associate degrees often require two years.

  • What kinds of degrees can I earn online?

    Online learners can pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of majors, including business, education, healthcare, liberal arts, and social services. Some colleges also offer associate and doctoral degree programs online.

  • Do I need to be a resident of Washington to study at an online school in Washington?

    Online colleges in Washington enroll students from other states. Temporary residents who do not meet in-state tuition requirements can also attend online schools in Washington.

  • How long does it take to become an official resident of Washington for college?

    Students must typically have lived in Washington for 12 months to qualify for in-state tuition rates. If students do not qualify for financial independence, their parent or guardian may need to meet in-state requirements.

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Accredited Online College Programs

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Accreditation for Online Schools in Washington

Prospective online learners should ensure that each institution they consider holds proper accreditation. Regionally accredited colleges and universities meet the highest standards for educating students and awarding degrees.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. Candidates for many professional licenses and certifications must hold a degree from an accredited school. Credits earned from accredited institutions transfer more easily to other colleges, and only learners at accredited institutions can qualify for federal student aid.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities grants regional accreditation to Washington institutions. The U.S. Department of Education maintains an online database of accredited schools and programs.

Why Study Online?

Learners often choose online programs because of their flexibility and affordability. Distance learning often benefits working professionals and learners with personal responsibilities. Additionally, many online programs allow students to control the pacing of their studies.

Online colleges in Washington also make higher education more accessible for residents of rural counties, such as Chelan County and Yakima County. Distance learning eliminates the need to relocate or commute long distances.

Finally, online programs are often more affordable than on-campus programs. Many schools offer discounted tuition rates for online students. Plus, distance learners typically save on costs associated with transportation and housing. Online students may also earn an income while completing their degree. Students who earn one of the best degrees online in Washington often increase their earning potential while meeting other obligations.

Professional Organizations for Students in Washington

Professional organizations help Washington students transition into the workforce after graduation. Specialized organizations represent individuals such as teachers, nurses, and business professionals. Professional associations often provide career support, host conferences, and maintain job boards. Online students can research professional organizations in their field.

  • Washington Education Association WEA represents educators in Washington state. The association offers professional development trainings, self-paced courses, and resources on certification in Washington. WEA also provides resources to help teachers advance professionally, along with teacher evaluation tools. The association posts job openings in Washington.

  • Washington State Nurses Association WSNA represents more than 17,000 nurses in Washington. The association advocates with employers and state agencies, promotes safe working conditions, and provides information on compensation. WSNA delivers resources on nursing practice, educational information, and health policy news. Student members can apply for grants and scholarships.

  • AMA Puget Sound Founded in 1944, the Puget Sound branch of the American Marketing Association promotes marketing professionals in the greater Puget Sound area. The association hosts luncheons, marketing events, and professional development events to help members advance in the marketing field.

  • Washington Mental Health Counselors Association WMHCA represents licensed mental health counselors and students in Washington. This state chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association guides students through the process of finding a clinical supervisor and applying for licensure. WMHCA also hosts events and training programs.

Scholarships for Online Students in Washington

Students attending online college in Washington can qualify for many scholarship opportunities. Professional associations, private foundations, and state agencies support learners with scholarships. Both online and on-campus students can qualify for a variety of awards based on academic merit and financial need. In addition to the following scholarships, distance learners should research opportunities based on their major, career plans, and school.

WashBoard Scholarships

Who Can Apply: A web-based scholarship clearinghouse, lists scholarships available to Washington residents and students attending Washington institutions. Students create a profile to learn about scholarship opportunities.
Amount: Varies

Washington State Opportunity Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship organization collaborates with the state and private industry partners. The award supports students earning a bachelor’s degree or pursuing a technical education in a high-demand field. WSOS also provides student support services.
Amount: Varies

Students of Integrity Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Better Business Bureau offers this scholarship to students in Northwestern states, including Washington. Applicants submit an essay on ethics and personal integrity. Candidates must demonstrate a history of community service and academic accomplishments.
Amount: $2,000

Best Online Colleges in Washington 2021

The following list ranks the best online colleges in Washington state for 2021. The ranking features high-quality, accredited institutions and includes some of the most affordable online degrees in Washington. Prospective students can use this list to find programs that fit their budget and career goals.

  1. Washington State University

    Pullman, WA



    A research-oriented university located in Pullman, Washington, WSU Global Campus offers 100% online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    WSU's online programs combine high-quality academics with the flexibility and convenience of fully online course delivery. Established in 1992, WSU Global Campus offers online degree programs in the fields of agriculture, arts, business, communication, education, science and technology, and social and behavioral sciences. U.S. News & World Report ranks WSU Global Campus as one of the best online undergraduate programs in the nation.

    Prospective applicants to WSU Global Campus' online programs must meet the minimum technical requirements for computer and internet connection speed. For transfer students, WSU requires a minimum 2.50 transfer GPA and at least 27 semester hours of transferable credits. Freshmen applicants must submit high school transcripts or GED scores.

    Washington State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

  2. Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom

    Lakewood, WA



    Based in Lakewood, Washington, Pierce enrolls around 10,000 students every year. Pierce also offers innovative online degrees through its Pierce Online platform.

    Pierce Online is part of the college's commitment to providing students with an engaging and flexible virtual learning environment. Pierce Online students can choose between an entirely online course delivery of 15 hours per week and a hybrid setup combining synchronous instructional time with asynchronous online instruction.

    Pierce offers career pathway areas in arts, humanities, and education; business; education; healthcare; social and behavioral sciences; and STEM.

    Applicants must meet the required computer specifications for online courses, and fill out the admissions application form available on the school's official website. Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

  3. Central Washington University

    Ellensburg, WA



    With a state-of-the-art campus at Ellensburg, Washington, CWU offers 22 nationally ranked online bachelor's and graduate degree programs.

    CWU's accredited online learning programs provide a convenient way for working adults and traditional students to earn degrees. CWU offers online degrees in accessibility studies, aviation management, business administration, English professional and creative writing, information technology, and administrative management, law and justice, paramedicine, psychology, public health, risk, insurance, and safety management, social services, and sociology.

    Through nonresident online student tuition waivers, CWU's online program allows out-of-state students to pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. Applicants must also submit previous academic records from high school or college, along with SAT or ACT scores. Central Washington University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

  4. Peninsula College

    Port Angeles, WA



    Located in Port Angeles, Washington, PC's innovative, student-centered academic degrees include competitive online programs at the bachelor's degree and certification level.

    PC's highly ranked online programs include degree and certificate options in the areas of administrative office systems, business administration, computer applications technology, criminal justice, cybersecurity and computer forensics, entrepreneurship, homeland security and emergency management, hospitality and ecotourism, information technology, and multimedia communications.

    PC also provides a variety of support resources to help students jumpstart their online academic journey. Learners may begin at PC during any term.

    Applicants must fill out an online application form, submit their high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores, and complete the ACCUPLACER placement test. PC does not require an application fee. Peninsula College is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

  5. Northwest University-College of Adult and Professional Studies

    Kirkland, WA



    Based in Kirkland, Washington, NU provides 100% online programs in associate degrees and certificate, bachelor degrees, and master degrees through the College of Adult and Professional Studies.

    NU offers online associate degree and bachelor degree programs in the areas of general studies, ministry leadership, business management, interdisciplinary studies, organizational leadership, organizational management, psychology, and nursing. The university also rolls out online master's degrees in bible and theology, business administration, clinical mental health counseling, leadership studies, ministry, applied research psychology, and nursing. Students of NU's online programs benefit from intensive academic support combined with the expertise from the school's information technology staff.

    Applicants, including transfer students with fewer than 72 transferable quarter credits or 60 semester credits, must submit their official high school and/or all college transcripts of records with a minimum GPA of 2.3 for the undergraduate programs and a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the graduate programs. Northwest University-College of Adult and Professional Studies is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

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